Of the Baker City Herald

Baker City's Rob Thomas has been elected one of five new directors for the American Angus Association.

Thomas joins the 15-member board elected by the association's membership, which boasts 34,000 regular and junior members nationwide.

He was elected last month at the organization's national conference in Louisville, Ky.

andquot;We're only slightly smaller than the National Cattlemen's Beef Organization, with a budget of about $20 million,andquot; Thomas said. andquot;It's very much an honor.andquot;

The AAA has the largest branded-beef program in the world. Its membership produces 80 percent of the nation's branded beef, Thomas said.

Together with his father, Bob, Rob Thomas and his wife, Lori, operate Thomas Angus Ranch. The operation began in the 1960s and has developed into a herd of 650 purebred cows with cooperator and franchise herds producing nearly 1,200 calves and 500 bulls annually.

Bob Thomas also served as a national director for the organization.

Thomas said the association tries to steer clear of political fights, such as country-of-origin labeling, in favor of what might be considered bread and butter issues for its membership: licensing, the promotion of the Certified Angus product, public relations and policy.

andquot;We meet four times a year, and for me it's going to be a 'learn-as-you-go' program for the first year,andquot; he said. andquot;We may not have the political clout of (the National Cattlemen's Beef Organization), but we're still a pretty powerful organization.andquot;

In 1987, Thomas graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in animal science and returned to the family operation with a goal to produce large volumes of closely-related bulls that would consistently sire quality progeny for his customers. An intensive breeding season, strict culling and the use of a wide range of performance information made that possible.

The family was recognized as the 1997 Beef Improvement Federation's Seedstock Producer of the Year.

Others elected to the board of directors at the November meeting were Al DeClerk of Pocahontas, Ark.; Joe Hampton of Mount Ulla, N.C.; Paul Hill of Bidwell, Ohio; and Dave Smith of Greensburg, Ind.

Officers for the coming year will be Joe Elliott of Adams, Tenn., president; Minnie Lou Bradley of Memphis, vice president; and Ben Eggers of Mexico, Mo., treasurer.

In the association's 120-year history, Bradley is the first woman to be elected vice president.

The American Angus Association is the world's largest beef breed organization. Founded in 1883, the not-for-profit company has headquarters in St. Joseph, Mo.